Though Indians had long inhabited the meadows at the southern end of Owens Lake, it wasn't until after 1860 that a permanent settlement was established. Minnard Farley arrived that year in search of the storied "Lost Gunsight Lode", and in 1863 he built an eight-stamp amalgamation mill, sawmill, and blacksmith shop on Olancha Creek. Indian uprisings led to the burning of Farley's Mill in 1867, but by then mining in Cerro Gordo brought activity to the area and Olancha grew as a stage stop on the road to Los Angeles. Eventually it developed into a small agricultural community.

In 1910, Olancha was reached by the Southern Pacific's Lone Pine or "Jawbone" Branch, and a siding was established. During the next decades businesses were opened to serve travelers along the new Midland Trail, later US-6 & US-395. By the end of the twentieth century, however, many had closed. The railroad abandoned its line in 1980, and the tracks were removed about 1999. Nevertheless, Olancha still has a population of nearly 200 and a small handful of reminders of its past still remain.

Jawbone Branch
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